Suarti, Exquisite Bali Silver Designer

Desak Nyoman Suarti was, by the age of 12, an accomplished painter, musician and dancer. She had performed for presidents and queens and later captivated audiences in New York bringing the spirit of Balinese culture to Broadway through dance and her own showroom in Soho. All this from a small girl raised in a smalll village on the island of Bali. Her creations derive their inspiration from Balinese tradition, culture, way of life and natural surroundings. While some items are meticulously ornate, others can be surprisingly simple. In a arnge of items from fully handcrafted limited editions to uncomplicated minimalist designs, Suarti recognizes we all have different tastes. Her silver jewelry enchances the aura of all who wear it.

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Desak Nyoman Suarti, Bali’s “queen of silver,” is dancing, her body moving with the suppleness of a teenager’s as she traces circular patterns in the air with her hands. When she catches the bewildered look on my face, she laughs. “All my jewelry designs have cultural roots,” she explains, stopping to open one of her catalogues and pointing to a picture of a bracelet engraved with a wavy motif. “This pattern is called util. It is inspired by the hand movements of a traditional Balinese dancer.”

We’re in a tiny workshop at her Suarti Company headquarters in southeast Bali, just steps away from Ketewel Beach. Five men are embossing disks of silver at a long table, their fingers moving with pianist-like dexterity.

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It was in that capacity that she was chosen to represent Bali in a cultural exchange program that took her overseas. She eventually ended up in New York, where, while teaching art classes at NYU, she discovered she had a talent for making jewelry, too. In the early 1980s she opened a small showroom in Soho, and as New Yorkers then were only just discovering the exoticism of Bali, it created something of a sensation.

After being based in the United States for two decades, Suarti returned home to focus on expanding her operation. Today, the company employs more than 100 people, creating ornate silver baubles—pendants, earrings, bracelets —for local retail outlets as well as for export to dozens of markets worldwide. Some designs are inspired by the patterns of songket, a brocaded cloth; others take their cues from Balinese cultural traditions such as dancing. But all have an ineffable quality that Suarti attributes to “spiritual energy.”


Suarti’s jewelry shows are aired on QVC and the Value Vision shopping Network in several countries, such as Australia, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the UK and the US. Her business is also strengthened by the presence of her sales office — Kopi Susu — which is located in New York to focus on the US market.
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